I don’t travel light at the best of times.

Throw in a fitness regime and by the time I take a couple of pairs of shoes, changes of workout clothes (because I refuse to do “front/back/inside out front/inside out back”), then I have to supersize my suitcase.

So I’m definitely a fan of exercises that don’t require any equipment.

Running has my lower body sorted and sit-ups, planks etc are a given for the abs.  But what about upper body exercises – where I would usually use weights in a gym?

Well here are three great exercises for the upper body that you can do with no equipment whatsoever – all pure body weight!

Upper body exercises

Of course one of the first (and best) upper body exercise that come to mind is the push-up. Because it is a compound exercise, it works the chest, shoulders, triceps, back, abs and even the legs.


body weight training

The original push-up, or its nine variations, starts by getting down on all fours on the floor or ground.

If doing the original, extend your legs back so all of your weight is supported by your hands and feet. Your body should be and remain in a straight line from your shoulders down to your heels. No “Harbour Bridging” as my trainer says.

Tighten your abs, inhale and slowly lower yourself down by bending at the elbows. Go down until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Now exhale and push yourself back up to the starting position. Do as many repetitions as your routine requires. Variations include moving your hands inward closer together or your feet wider apart among others.

Shoulder Packing

From the standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart, and arms at your sides, press your shoulder blades down and back. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Practice 10 repetitions per set.

The Alphabet (or at least parts of it)

From the standing position, arms shoulder-width apart and arms at your sides, raise your arms out to your sides making the letter “T” with your body. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds per repetition and then, drop your arms back down.

Next comes the letters “I” and “Y”.  From the starting position, raise your arms over your head with your thumbs touching and hold the position. To convert from the “I” to the “Y”, hold your arms apart, instead of your thumbs touching. In both instances, return to the starting position.

Last is the “W”. It is the same as the letter “T”, except you drop your elbows down instead of keeping them straight, thus forming the letter “W”.

Hold each letter for 15 to 30 seconds per repetition, 10 repetitions per set, 2 to 4 sets per letter. Repeat the sequence as many times as needed to get in a good workout.

upper body exercises

These upper body exercises are great if you travel light and don’t like to take any equipment with you. And because no equipment is required, you can do them anywhere: inside your house or office, outside in the park or as an upper body warm-up at the gym.  Although if you start spelling the alphabet in the office don’t be suprised if someone starts playing YMCA!